The Village of Riverton has an interesting early history. Published sources provide very little detail to the complicated web of owners and residents of the community. The village's origins go back to the days before its founding when a ferry crossing was located just south of Riverton on the Sangamon River. The earliest known proprietor of this ferry was Ezekiel Judd who in 1829 transferred the ferry license over to his brother Corbin. Corbin Judd operated the ferry for just a year before turning it over to John Judy. The operation was now known as Judy's Ferry. Abraham Dingman succeeded Judy in 1833 and the Dingman family ran the ferry for several years after.
In March 1831, Abraham Lincoln, John Hanks and John D. Johnston came to Sangamon County for the first time, traveling on the Sangamon River by canoe to Riverton, then named Jamestown.
Gershom Jayne, a Springfield physician and land speculator, purchased the land where Riverton sits in December 1830. Jayne held onto the land until May 1837 when he sold it to Samuel Danley. Mr. Danley owned the land for just a few months before selling it to John Taylor, a Springfield merchant and speculator. Taylor was responsible for having the town of Jamestown, the original name of Riverton, platted on December 11, 1837. The town's formation is believed to have been caused by the construction of the Northern Cross Railroad. This railroad was supposed to have run from the Illinois River to the boundary line with Indiana. Jamestown would have been located on this rail line. Contracts were let out to different groups for the construction of various stretches of the railroad. A group of four men including James F. Reed received the contract to build the railroad between Springfield and the Sangamon River. Reed set a sawmill in Jamestown for the purpose of cutting timber for the construction.
The Sangamon River derived its name from the Pottawatomie Indian word Sain-guee-mon (pronounced sang gä mun) meaning literally "where there is plenty to eat".
By early 1840s Jamestown was experiencing some growth with the establishment of a grocery store and post office. Reed's mill continued to operate as well. The strange fact remains that John Taylor sold very few lots in the town. The Northern Cross did not reach the city of Springfield until 1842. Soon after, it became apparent that the railroad was unreliable. The construction of the tracks proved to be faulty. The railroad was closed and later sold. Jamestown fell on hard times as well in the later 1840s. John Taylor failed to pay the property taxes on the town and the land was sold at a tax sale to Joseph B. Loose of Maryland. James Frazier Reed had turned to manufacturing furniture at his mill as well as grinding corn. He mortgaged the mill along with some other land to the Sangamon County School Commissioner for $1,000. Reed left for California in April 1846 with the Donner/Reed Party. Reed and his family became a part of the Donner Party Disaster high in the Sierra Mountains, although most of them survived. He failed to pay back the borrowed money and his land including the mill was foreclosed upon.
Very little happened in Jamestown until the early 1850s with the arrival of the railroad. The Northern Cross, which had been sold, was reorganized as the Sangamon and Morgan Railroad, which then became the Great Western. The railroad track was rebuilt from the Illinois River and pushed eastward. By 1854 they had reached the city of Decatur. John D. Keedy, a Springfield distiller, bought Jamestown from Loose in December 1857. Keedy mortgaged the town and some land directly south of it to Jacob Bunn for $10,000. Keedy apparently used the money to build a distillery on the land just south of Jamestown. The town property was released to Keedy for partial payment but the land and distillery were given to the Bunns. Jamestown was sold in October 1862 to pay for a judgment against Keedy. Parley L. Howlett, another distiller, purchased the town.